Update on Transition of Inpatient Beds at Durham Site

On May 14, South Bruce Grey Health Centre (SBGHC) hosted a community webinar regarding our decision to transition the 10 inpatient beds currently at the Durham hospital site to the Walkerton and Kincardine sites. Thank you to everyone who joined and asked questions.

We recognize that many of you have concerns about these plans and what it means for the future of the hospital.

We are committed to keeping the Durham site open so we can continue to provide safe and high-quality care to our patients. SBGHC is not closing the Durham site and is exploring what new health care services we can add to the emergency services and diagnostic imaging that will remain.

For those who were unable to join the webinar, we wanted to share some additional information on the staffing shortages facing the Durham site:

  • From April 1, 2023 to March 31, 2024, there were 96 short-notice emergency department closures at the Durham site due to insufficient staffing.
  • This is partially due to the 2,303 hours of short notice nursing staff vacancies at the Durham site over the same time period.
  • To help fill some of those vacancies, registered nurses at the Durham site worked 3,119 hours of overtime.
  • The current registered nurse vacancy rate at the Durham site is 48%.
    • This is up from 19% last summer, during which time we experienced a significant number of short-notice emergency department closures.

The nurses and staff at our Durham site provide incredible care. However, the high number of vacancies we are experiencing make it challenging to safely provide inpatient care at the Durham site. Our hospital system is not alone. Every region in Ontario and Canada is experiencing a shortage of health care workers. While we have been tirelessly trying to recruit more nurses, we determined it was best for patient safety and care to move Durham’s inpatient beds to sites with staff available to care for additional patients.

The transition of the inpatient beds in Durham to the Walkerton and Kincardine sites will be complete on June 3rd. This will allow us to focus our staff and resources at the Durham site to provide emergency services, keeping the Durham site open.

We have been working in partnership with patients and their caregivers to develop safe transition plans. This process is already in place, as we often move patients between sites to ensure they are getting the right care in the right place.  

We will continue to work with both the Ministry of Health and Ontario Health to ensure all SBGHC sites continue to provide care to our communities.

We know that many of you have still have questions. We have provided responses to some frequently asked questions below.

Questions & Answers

Why didn’t SBGHC implement the proposed staffing schedule put forward by nurses at Durham?

  • SBGHC thanks the nurses at the Durham site for their tireless work to provide high quality care to our patients.
  • There is a dedicated group of nurses at the Durham site who developed a proposed schedule for the summer.
  • SBGHC leadership and managers met with the nurses and reviewed the proposed plan in detail.
  • Unfortunately, the proposed plan did not account for unplanned leaves, sick days or vacations, and had no redundancy that is needed for a safe schedule. As a result, it was not a feasible plan for both patient safety and consistency of care or to create a safe work environment for our staff.
  • SBGHC’s scheduling and human resources departments have worked on many different versions of schedules with the staff we have to try and avoid the transition of beds from Durham.
  • Unfortunately, with the staff we have there was no schedule that would enable us to safely provide both emergency services and inpatient care at the Durham site. Moving the inpatient beds to other locations was the safest alternative to provide consistent, accessible care to the community of Durham.

Is SBGHC still using agency nurses at the Durham site to help fill shifts?

  • SBGHC continues to use agency nurses at all four sites, including to support nursing vacancies at the Durham site.​ 
  • However, the number of nursing vacancies have grown, and agency staff have become difficult to retain, specifically at the Durham site. 
  • We need a core foundation of staff that know our hospital, patients and staff to support agency nurses.
  • Although we have a fantastic team of nurses at the Durham site, there are no longer enough nurses to provide this stable foundation for inpatient care and emergency services.  
  • We can no longer rely on agency nurses to help keep both inpatient beds and emergency services open.

Can you provide an update on patient transfers from the Durham site? Were patients transferred without being notified?

  • All our patients’ caregivers were contacted and consulted with in advance of conducting transfers. 
  • We have been working in partnership to develop safe transition plans.
  • We do our best to work with patients and their loved ones to ensure they are transferred to a site that will be the most convenient for them, while ensuring they receive the specialized care they need.
  • This process is already in place, and we often move patients between sites to ensure they are getting the right care in the right place.  
  • All patient transfers will be completed by June 3rd.

What’s happening to the equipment at the Durham site that was bought with donor funds?

  • We are grateful for our foundations and the important work they do to support our hospitals.
  • All of the equipment that has been purchased with funds from the Durham Hospital Foundation will remain at the Durham site to support care for patients at this site, as per the Foundation’s request. 

More questions and answers available here.

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